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11.7.10 World War II and Mexican Americans

From an editorial published by the LULAC News.
16711
Newspaper

LULAC News, “World War II and Mexican Americans.” Volume 12, October 1945, pp. 5-6.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations that advocates for the rights and voices of Latinixs and Chicanxs. In the closing months of World War II, the LULAC newspaper published this editorial, after the Zoot Suit Riots and in the midst of the Bracero Program. This editorial describes the treatment that Mexicans and Mexican Americans experienced on a daily basis. What do you notice about how this article explains the way that Mexican American service members and civilians were being treated? Why does LULAC insist that all people of Mexican descent are “white”? What is the advantage of this claim? How does the article explain how race functions?

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations that advocates for the rights and voices of Latinxs and Chicanxs. In the closing months of World War II, the LULAC newspaper published this editorial, after the Zoot Suit Riots and in the midst of the Bracero Program. This editorial describes the treatment that Mexicans and Mexican Americans experienced on a daily basis. Ask students: What do you notice about how this article explains the way that Mexican American service members and civilians were being treated? Why does LULAC insist that all people of Mexican descent are “white”? What is the advantage of this claim? How does the article explain how race functions? Students will likely notice similar and different arguments about equality than those used today; ask them to notice continuities and changes in the arguments.

“We do not serve Mexicans here.” “You will have to get out as no Mexicans are allowed.” “Your uniform and service ribbons mean nothing here. We still do not allow Mexicans.”
These, and many other stronger-worded ones, are the embarrassing and humiliating retorts given our returning veterans of Latin American descent and their families. They may all be worded differently, and whereas some are toned with hate and loathness while others are toned with sympathy and remorse, still the implications remains that these so-called “Mexicans” are considered unworthy of equality, regardless of birthright or service. This situation is ironic indeed, in view of the fact that these same “Mexicans” have just finished helping this country to defeat countries to the east and west who would impose upon the world a superior people, a superior culture.
Why this hate, this prejudice, this tendency to discriminate against a people whose only fault seems to be that they are heirs of a culture older than any known “American Culture,” to find themselves a part of a land and people they have helped to build and to defend, to find themselves a part of a minority group whose acquired passive nature keeps them from boldly demanding those rights and privileges which are rightfully theirs? Can it be the result of difference in race, nationality, language, loyalty, intelligence or ability?
There is no difference in race. Latin Americans, or the so-called “Mexicans,” are Caucasian or white. There are only three races: the Caucasian, the Negroid, and the Mongoloid. Racial characteristics place the Latin American among the white. Who dares contradict nature? There is no difference in nationality. These “Mexicans” were born and bred in this country and are just as Americans as Jones or Smith. In fact, the ancestors of these “Mexicans were here before those of Jones or Smith decided to take up abode. Difference in language? No. These “Mexicans” speak English. Accented, perhaps, in some cases, but English all over the United States seems to be accented. That these “Mexicans” can speak Spanish is not a detriment, it is an asset. After all, there are not too many people in this country who can boast a knowledge of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Difference in loyalty? How can that be when all revere the same stars and stripes, when they don the same service uniforms for the same principles? Difference in intelligence and ability? Impossible….
We have proved ourselves true and loyal Americans by every trial and test that has confronted us; now give us social, political, and economic equality and the opportunity to practice and enjoy that equality. We ask for it not as a favor, but as a delegated right guaranteed by our Constitution, and as a reward for faithful service.”